The service ended three minutes ago, and an eager gentleman is already waiting to talk to you. He catches your attention, and you say hi to him, and then he says what you never want to hear three minutes after a service: “I just have to be honest with you…”
You know this isn’t going to be pleasant. You’re happy to take suggestions and know that criticism is part of the job, but so soon after a service ended isn’t the best time or place for you receive either very well.
So in that moment – when someone is criticizing you, or the way you led, or the volume, or the songs, or your shoes – how can you respond graciously? Here are ten quick ways you might consider:
1. “Thank you so much for feeling comfortable enough with me to share these concerns. I really appreciate it.”
– Translation: I’ll think about what you said – later.
2. “Hey – since I can be forgetful right after a service, would you mind emailing me your thoughts?”
– Translation: Not now.
3. “That’s really helpful to hear. Thank you.” (repeat as needed)
– Translation: I disagree, but I’ll still listen to you.
4. “Hmmm. That’s very interesting. I’ve never thought about it that way. Thank you so much.”
– Translation: This is a new one.
5. “I see where you’re coming from. Thank you very much!”
– Translation: I can see how you would think that. You’re not crazy.
6. “Yeah, you’re right. I was thinking the same thing.”
– Translation: I don’t take myself too seriously. I’m happy to admit when I could have done something better.
7. “Hmmm. Well… I’m really sorry you felt it was too loud. I will definitely talk with the sound engineer.”
-Translation: I’m noting your concerns and will talk with the people who might be able to do something about them.
8. “That’s good to know. Thank you. Please always feel to share your concerns with me.”
– Translation: I heard what you just said, and am happy to listen to you whenever you want if it makes you feel listened to.
9. “Well why don’t you call me tomorrow or Tuesday and let’s set up a time to talk?”
– Translation: I’d love to talk with you about this, but not right now.
10. “That’s interesting. What makes you say that?”
– Translation: This seems to be more about you than it is about me. What is it about you that makes you think what you’re thinking?
Someone once told me that being in ministry should make you “tough but sweet”. That’s been the key for me when dealing with people who have really bad timing. Try to be as Christ-like and “sweet” with them, while at the same time, be strong and “tough” enough to have clear boundaries about what kind of criticism you’ll accept and when you’ll accept it.